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Pelosi Dismisses Freshman Progressive Dems in NY Times Interview; Trump Disputes Report of Poor Conditions at Border Facilities; Billionaire Activist Hasn't Ruled Out 2020 Presidential Bid. Aired 12:30-1p ET

Aired July 8, 2019 - 12:30   ET



[12:31:06] JOHN KING, CNN ANCHOR: There are some new Democratic drama on display today as Speaker Nancy Pelosi slams some of the loudest left-wing voices in her party. The speaker telling the New York Times this, quote, all these people have their public whatever and their Twitter world, but they didn't have any following. They're four people and that's how many votes they got.

Interesting words. The four she's addressing, Alexandria Ocasio- Cortez, Ilhan Omar, Rashida Tlaib, and Ayanna Pressley. Tensions still quite high after the fight over border funds which saw those House Democrats break with their party rejecting a bipartisan Senate agreement. Now, the congresswomen are firing back at their leader, the speaker.

"That public whatever is called public sentiment", wrote Ocasio- Cortez. "And wielding the power to shift it is how we actually achieve meaningful change in this country." Omar adding, "You know they're just salty about who is wielding the power to shift public sentiment these days. Sorry not sorry."

This is a great generational drama within the Democratic Party. Some of these younger members who don't like to be told wait your turn, it's not your way, who are much more active on social media than the older traditional guard like Speaker Pelosi. You also have the most powerful woman in American politics dealing with an insurgency of sorts from four younger rising stars in the Democratic Party. Is it just a drama? Generational impact? Ideological differences? Or is it having an impact on the Democrats' ability to do business?

KAROUN DEMIRJIAN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: It's not just a drama but it is a debate that is playing out on a larger stage than Congress. This is a question that's happening much more on the presidential primary circuit of where is the Democratic Party, where is the heart and soul of it. Which direction should they be moving in, you know, center or go more to the left? And these are big idea issues that they're fighting over.

Congress is about number counting. Congress is about coalition building. Congress is about getting past a threshold. And what can actually pass Congress is never the shift in public sentiment that might be happening across the country. It's the reality check is -- and the gut check of where we maybe now is in Congress.

So it's interesting to see this playing out because they're really talking past each other. I mean, Nancy Pelosi's objectives are not the objectives of AOC and Rashida Tlaib and Ayanna Pressley.

MICHAEL SHEAR, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, THE NEW YORK TIMES: But she's not wrong that, you know, if you compare these four young progressives on the left to the Freedom Caucus or the Tea Party right, the one thing the Tea Party had was it did have the votes to block things, to push things, to really frustrate the leadership because they didn't just bring rhetoric, they brought votes. And so far -- I mean, that could change, so far we haven't seen demonstrations that this four very sort of energetic, you know, passionate liberals can actually bring votes to really frustrate the speaker. And the border vote was an example of that.

LISA LERER, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: One place to watch it play out will be in the election, of course, because there are a lot of threats circulating of primaries that some of these people would support primary challenges to some of the older members in Congress. At the same time you have Pelosi saying, look, the Democratic path to the majority runs through moderate suburban districts. That's what won the party back the majority and those are the districts that the party needs to hold going forward. So I think the place where this -- you're right, the place where these big ideas contest could have actual real-life implications is in the elections, not only the presidential but congressional as well.

KING: But you mentioned the border vote. Now -- they're back this week and they have a lot of spending issues to deal with and the Democrats run the House. They could -- they promised they would not be like the Republicans who had the Freedom Caucus, every time they tried to pass a normal budget, the Freedom Caucus blew it up so they had to do these ongoing a appropriations bills. Democrats couldn't pass one looking in the rear view mirror. Can they pass one looking in the front view mirror?

Tlaib says you want our votes, you should give us more respect.


REP. RASHIDA TLAIB (D-MI): Honor the fact that we are there, that 650,000 people are represented by each and every single one of us. That there is some sort of, I think in many ways, something special about having a refugee, having a woman that, you know, have experienced alone what incarceration has done to her family, right.

[12:35:08] All of us have these experiences that I think have been missing in the halls of Congress. Honor that, respect that, put us at the table. Let's come up with a solution together.

But there is a better approach. It is very disappointing that the speaker would ever try to diminish our voices in so many ways.


KING: It's interesting.

AYESHA RASCOE, WHITE HOUSE REPORTER, NPR: And I think what they are trying to argue is, look, yes, Nancy Pelosi is very good in Congress and getting the votes and in kind of -- and building coalitions. What they're arguing is going forward you're going to need people. You're going to need the young people, you're going to need voters to be energized. And they are saying that they have the energy on their side. That they'll be able to get people to come out. That they'll be able to in those places where things were really close for Donald Trump in the presidential election if you had more of the Democratic base getting out, if you had more people getting out and young people and all of these people voting, it could make a real difference.

And so I think that they are trying to say that, look, we have some energy on our side and we can bring that to the table.

DEMIRJIAN: That's true, but one thing is about, -- you know, is Nancy Pelosi actually afraid of that? And I think this goes to Michael's point which is that the Freedom Caucus did have more numbers, that's true, but also the Republicans were much more obsessed with obeying the Hastert Rule and making sure that they please other Republicans before they made deals with Democrats. Nancy Pelosi is much more old school politician. She will find -- and people respect her because she has managed to make things like the healthcare bill work, right?

And so before the very younger generation is successful in that way, she has a lot of buffer room and mentality about this that says I don't have to please every last member in order to get what our objectives as a party are through the House.

KING: It is more than fun to watch, and when she uses -- she chooses her words carefully. So when she says they're whatever or their Twitter, she's making a point.

Up next for us, some new details on the billionaire accused of operating a sex trafficking ring.


[12:41:24] KING: Topping our political radar today, federal prosecutors in New York investigating a former top official for President Trump's inaugural committee. Elliott Broidy was the finance voice chair for the inauguration and a former finance official for the Republican National Committee. The U.S. Attorney's Office for the eastern district of New York investigating whether Broidy attempted to peddle his influence with the Trump administration. Prosecutors now filing subpoenas for documents and records related to Broidy and companies, several foreign politicians associated with him.

Two familiar faces running for the Senate. Former Republican Congressman Scott Taylor says he is going to challenge Democrat Mark Warner in Virginia. Also, Kris Kobach expected to announce a Senate run in Kansas this afternoon. But this morning, an embarrassing glitch for Kobach just before his campaign gets started. Paperwork filed for Kobach for Senate misspelled the candidate's first name. It was spelled C-H-R-I-S. Kris Kobach is spelled with a K and without an H.

The Justice Department announcing a new legal team will take over the administration's fight to include a citizenship question on the 2020 census. No reason being offered for that change. This comes of course though after president -- the president vowed to fight for including that question, that after the Supreme Court objected to the administration's argument for keeping it.

A senior Department of Justice official telling CNN the man who previously handled census cases for the department, James Burnham, thought it would make sense to put a new team in charge. A Trump administration official says everything is up in the air. The White House is still weighing its options.

Up next, President Trump disputes reports of squalid conditions inside border detention facilities and says he wants the media to get in so that people can see what's actually happening inside.


[12:47:40] KING: Today perhaps I hope the American people will get to see what's happening inside border detention facilities where thousands of migrant children have been held. President Trump now plans, he says to let the media get inside. It comes after a disturbing New York Times report on conditions at a Clint, Texas facility at the height of detainment. The story in part said this, quote, outbreaks of scabies, shingles, and chickenpox were spreading among the hundreds of children who were being held in cramped cells, agents said. The stench of the children's dirty clothing was so strong it spread to the agents' own clothing. People in town would scrunch their noses when they left work.

President Trump responding to that report yesterday.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I want the press to go in and see them. They're crowded because people come up, but now thanks to Mexico it's slowing down greatly, and I think you'll start seeing some very good numbers. But it is crowded. But we want to have the press go in and see because, you know what the New York Times, it really is fake news.


KING: You have a fair point? I suspect that the reporting is actually very good reporting. There is a question of how this is happening, why this is happening, the motive of it happening. Is it a system that is just overwhelmed? But the facts are the facts.

RASCOE: And the -- I mean, the Department of Homeland Security's inspector general, which is the independent watchdog, went into some of these detention centers and they described squalid conditions and all of these things. So this is not just coming from the New York Times, this is coming from the government itself, and the people who are supposed to be looking at this. And they're saying that these conditions are -- that these conditions are not good for these children who are being held.

KING: And within the administration, what you get is the position that, yes, there's chronic overcrowding. Yes, we need more resources. Yes, it would be nice if Congress could have a plan as to what we should do here in the middle of all of this here.

This is Aaron Hull, the chief border patrol agent in El Paso responsible for the Clint center which is IN FOCUS on CNN this morning.


AARON HULL, CHIEF U.S. BORDER PATROL AGENT, EL PASO SECTOR: Every two days these children are getting offered shower facilities. Now, we cannot make them shower. We can take them to the shower and we can put them there, but we can't physically make them shower.

It's the same thing with brushing their teeth. We encounter children who've never brushed their teeth. We've had a lot of agents had to teach them basic hygiene.

No, these are not denied. These are -- this is no secret that all of these aspects, food, water, hygiene, showers, laundry, were monitored in all of this.

[12:50:01] These things are documented.


KING: This plays out, we're sitting here in Washington, D.C. The political argument is from the president's critics, especially that somehow this is almost on purpose. That they horde these people into the centers, they mistreat them because they don't care. There you have the border patrol saying we're overwhelmed. It isn't perfect but we're not deliberately trying to deny people anything, we're just overwhelmed.

SHEAR: Well, there's few things, there is -- first of all, there has been in this administration a political push for deterrence of all sorts in all sorts of different ways, and which I think does raise all sorts of questions about whether the administration was more than happy to let the conditions at the border become such that people wouldn't want to come and the president has said that. And then, in addition, the question -- I mean, you know, he said that they've been monitoring the hygiene and what have you. There were reports at one place, I think, of two shower stalls for like 450 migrants in a particular place. I mean, it's impossible to imagine that you could cycle that many people through two showers.

So, I mean, I think, you know, as you said, the facts are the facts. I think it's clear from the lawyers and from everybody else that's been there that these have been really deplorable conditions. And letting us in post facto because they -- after they've cleaned up and moved out most of the people, that's totally different.

KING: And to that point, I just want to get this in, the Acting Homeland Security Secretary Kevin McAleenan says, yes, things were bad. He says since they got the money since that border deal was passed a little more than a week ago, things are already getting better.


KEVIN MCALEENAN, ACTING DHS SECRETARY: We're trying to provide as much space and as much nice a setting as we possibly can while children are in our custody but the big point was to move them to HHS. On June 1st we had 2,500 children in our custody, 1,200 had been with us over three days. Now that we have the supplemental from Congress, HHS has additional beds and we only have 350 as of yesterday afternoon's report and only 20 of those children have been with us more than three days.


KING: I mean, if the government was able to move that fast after getting money, good for Secretary McAleenan. But back to the president's point, you say this post facto, there should be transparency anyway so we can put all these numbers to the test.

LERER: I think one thing that's been particularly striking about this to me has been the compassion that the president showed when children in Syria were getting hurt and how he jumped immediately. You know, he started military action in Syria, all these things. And he does not seem to share the same compassion about reports for children within his own borders. And it really is a striking thing and it does get to this point that you were making about deterrence, about this being both a policy and a bit of a political strategy, cracking down on immigration at the border was a major part of his campaign.

He promised to build a wall, that wall has not been built. So you sort of tie these threads together and it does seem like this is -- there is a strategy at play here.

DEMIRJIAN: And also it's just a little bit surprising when you see officials going on the air and seeming surprised that, you know, kids aren't acting like adults. They're children and they're children that are separated from their families. And this -- so whether a question of -- whether it was deliberate or not in terms of deterrence, it's also just if it wasn't deliberate, the idea that you'd be surprised that you were managing children and that's difficult and that requires other approaches is rather shocking.

LERER: And there is a point, a fair point that this is not a system that was set up for children. That the nature of these migrants has changed and so now you have unaccompanied three-year-olds that are, you know, 16-year-olds or 15-year-olds are being asked to watch that are, you know, not even related to the toddlers. And you know -- but you could do something about changing the conditions and dealing with the reality of the problem on the ground now.


KING: We shall see. Again to your point about the president, maybe he should visit and see how that happens.

Up next, remember Tom Steyer, the big Democratic donor in all those impeachment ads who said he was not going to run for president?


[12:58:23] KING: Today fresh evidence that in politics, no does not mean never. Remember Tom Steyer telling us in January his time is best spent on impeachment, not on running in 2020.


TOM STEYER, DEMOCRATIC MEGA DONOR: I am not running for president at this time. Instead, I am strengthening my commitment to need to impeach in 2019.


KING: Well, Steyer now reconsidering planning to announce he's running as soon as tomorrow. That according to the Atlantic. A source telling CNN Steyer never fully ruled out running for president despite what you just heard him say there back in January.

Is the Democratic Party screaming for Tom Steyer's late entry?

LERER: I mean, look, this is the benefit of having a lot of money. He doesn't have the same problems that a lot of other people have in this crowded field of having to have the money to go the distance in this race. And I think there's a little bit of frustration about how his push for impeachment, the attention that it's gotten once it turns out when you're not a presidential candidate, sometimes your priorities get a lot less attention. So, you know, it's a combination of resources and he definitely has an issue that he is focused on.

KING: You roll your eyes a bit but if he can get onto a debate stage, giant if, capital I, capital F, can his impeachment argument impact the other candidates who have been a little more skittish about it?

DEMIRJIAN: It could impact it, it could also -- the logic has been that's not what voters care about, that's a nice discussion. It could impact that debate, it could impact what happens on Capitol Hill. It could have a huge impact in terms of how front and center impeachment becomes. And if he proves Nancy Pelosi wrong or not.

KING: We won't reach 30 but we're going to keep counting up a little bit for now before we start counting down which will come pretty soon.

Thanks for joining us today in the INSIDE POLITICS. We'll see you back here this time tomorrow we hope. Brianna Keilar starts right now. Have a great afternoon.